Your Friends Support You, But They Still Won’t Consume Your Content

If you’re my friend and a creative the reality is that I probably don’t listen to your music, haven’t read your book, am not regularly reading your blog and probably haven’t subscribed to your podcast. It’s not because I don’t like you. It’s not because I don’t respect you.  It’s not because I don’t believe in your talent and it’s not because I don’t want to help you succeed. In fact, you’re probably exceptional at what you do and applying your skills to create something amazing.

As a content creator, this is something that will frustrate you, leave you feeling concerned that you’re not good enough or that I don’t respect you. You’ll probably feel a bit betrayed and you’ll feel a bit hurt. I know these are all still emotions I feel regularly as a fellow content creator.  But, the reality is, it doesn’t make me a bad friend and it most definitely doesn’t mean your content isn’t good enough.  As a content creator, this was a hard lesson that has taken me a long time to come to grips with, and even longer to internalize.

It doesn’t matter what type of content you create – perhaps you’re a journalist, a photographer, a musician or book author. One of the most difficult things to come to terms with, and something that leads many creatives to abandon their projects while feeling a deep sense of hurt, is the reality that the audience you expect to be the most passionate and automatic – that of friends, family and colleagues will, more often than not, disappoint you.

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison

This blog includes a lot of advice. It includes a lot guidance, materials and assets which have taken me hours and a considerable financial investment to assemble. I’ve been running VirtualWayfarer since 2007 and post on a daily basis about the topics covered here – travel, photography, study abroad, videography etc. – and yet, not a month goes by that someone I know, usually fairly well, reaches out with a message to the effect of, “Hey Alex, you travel a lot right? Do you have any advice about X-Y-Z?”.   For most of my blogging career this left me exasperated. After all, I’d spent years spoon feeding that very information to them, doing everything in my power to make them aware of it, and expecting that they’d be interested, curious and support me. All of which was, by and large, utterly ineffective outside of triggering a vague association.

It hurt. It pissed me off. It was disheartening.  To make it worse, it also made an already difficult process a hell of a lot more difficult.

Why? Because getting content out there, discovered, and adopted by other people is hard. Like, really, really, freaking hard. The easiest way to leapfrog some of that is through the amplification of your social network. I have roughly 2,370 Facebook friends and an additional 400+ people following me. The vast majority of these people are people I’ve met in real life, know personally, or are travel bloggers themselves. Out of those nearly 3,000 folks how many follow VirtualWayfarer on Facebook? 379. On YouTube? No way to tell, but probably fewer than 50. If even 500 of those nearly 3,000 folks engaged with and shared one piece of my content a week, it would have a radical impact on the exposure and visibility of this blog. Especially because they’re very diverse people, spread around the globe, with very multi-faceted social networks.

But, there in lies the catch 22.  They’re very diverse people, with very diverse interests, with very diverse priorities, tastes, and commitments. They’re already busy in the midst of what they’re doing and they have pre-existing preferences which, at any given point, will only overlap with what I’m creating and doing periodically and in a specific way.

Read Travel Blogs? Be Careful.

It’s no secret that many bloggers have been able to monetize somewhat through the sale of links to search engine optimization companies and digital brands.  This has led to a sort of dance between bloggers, Google, and SEO professionals which is utterly confusing and complex. Are they any different than traditional ads? Does the intent matter? Are they misleading readers? etc. and the reality is that several high profile bloggers have come out and talked a bit about how they were funding their travels using this approach (on high volume) until it started to undermine their relationships with their readers, incurred the wrath of Google, or a bit of both. Others have established secondary sites that essentially serve as dumping grounds for these links and content. Yet others have been far less scrupulous and completely forgone the wall between paid content/endorsements/links/disclosure and genuine written material. What I find particularly disturbing about this is that it seems to be an increasing trend, particularly as rates for other forms of advertising/compensation decrease.

Arizona Tweetup

Arizona Travel Tweetup

Today marked the 4th Arizona Travel Tweetup. All told seven of us made our way to Boulders on Broadway for a great mixture of travel conversation, beer, food, and travel-tech talk.  It was absolutely fantastic seeing familiar faces and putting new faces to twitter handles.

Everyone had lots of great stories and a wealth of fantastic advice, new resources and insights.

The following were in attendance:

@patriciaeleniehttp://www.patricialapadula.com

@khegre

@wandering_jhttp://wanderingjustin.com

@azgetawaytravelhttp://azgetawaytravel.com

@brianshalerhttp://brianshaler.com

@AlexBerger – You’ve already found me =)

Didn’t make it out this time? Stay tuned for details about the 5th Arizona Travel Tweetup. Should be happening some time in May/June!

Unlocking Ushuaia’s Secrets – The Portal to Tierra del Fuego

A Rainstorm - Ushuaia, Argentina

The first few days of my Argentina trip had been spent exploring Buenos Aires, socializing, dealing with jet lag and adjusting to the reality that I was back on the road.   For me, it was the southern city of Ushuaia where I mentally perceived my Argentinian adventure as truly beginning. I didn’t know what to expect.  I knew that the city was the departure base for the majority of the Antarctica tours, it was home to the Tierra del Fuego National Park, and  it was my best shot at seeing penguins. Beyond that, I’d heard mixed things. Chief among them was that the town and region were disappointing; that I shouldn’t set aside much time for the area, and my time would be better spent elsewhere.

Downtown Ushuaia - Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

After exploring Ushuaia, El Chalten, and El Calafate, I can definitely tell where and why people might think the above about Ushuaia.  Based on my experiences, I found Ushuaia worth the stop…with a caveat that your level of enjoyment while in Ushuaia seems to depend on where in your trip you see it.  The city of Ushuaia is a launchpad destination.  It is a city nestled between majestic, snow-capped mountains situated alongside the Beagle Channel of Darwinian fame. With a booming population and nearly 60,000 residents, the city is one of the largest in the region.  Yet, despite that, the tourist section of the city stands alone, nestled along the port and on the side of the mountains, it feels more like a town of 5,000.

Ushuaia Harbor - Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

The flight south is fairly unremarkable, until that is, you go to land in the city.  Located in the midst of the channel on a long, flat peninsula the airport is surrounded by large mountain ranges which still cling to snowy cloaks even in the midst of the Argentinian summer. As our plane drifted, dropped, and jumped through the clouds on a turbulent approach, I was awestruck by the view out the window.  We weren’t just making a typical approach, we were flying through a large valley and surrounded by/flying over snow-covered mountains.  It was spectacular and left me grinning as my mind immediately imagined that famous snow/ramp scene from the James Bond movies.  What also struck me was the minute or two which it lasted. Usually landings happen so quickly that you don’t really get anything more than a quick view of the surrounding area. That wasn’t the case with Ushuaia which was a true delight.

Ushuaia Harbor - Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

The airport is new, modern, and in excellent shape.  Fairly small, it’s built for cold weather and as such offers a lot of amenities that many smaller airports might gloss over.  There is a cost, however, as both Ushuaia and El Calafate airports are managed by “London Supply” and charge an exit tax for the use of the airport which is NOT covered in your ticket price. The tax is around $8 USD.

Ushuaia Bay - Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

After a quick 7 minute cab ride (around 23 pesos) I found myself at the front door of the Freestyle Hostel.  The hostel had a nice layout, clean/modern facilities, and a great location just north of the docks. The staff was friendly, helpful and playful once they decided they liked you but tended to be a bit abrasive and sarcastic on first blush.  My room offered a great view out over the harbor, was warm despite the cold weather, and fairly comfortable.

The Local Pub in Ushuaia - Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

Before long I’d settled in, snagged a hearty nap, and was set to explore.  Based on a recommendation and drink coupon from the hostel, I headed down (quite literally) the street to the Dublin Pub. A great little pub, it serves as the premier watering hole for travelers in Ushuaia. The place was packed, served a mixture of beers, and was limited to two local options on tap…Red or Black.  Both of which were delightful.

Shortly thereafter, I connected with a twitter contact who I’d recently learned was also traveling through Ushuaia.  Brendan authors the blog Brendan’s Adventures and has been on the road for over a year.  A full time travel blogger he’s done a wonderful job executing a dream that most only talk about. Definitely take a minute to check out his blog and to look him up on twitter at @Brendanvanson.

We chatted travel, adventures, antics, women, and business projects off and on over the remainder of my stay in Ushuaia. Brendan has a wealth of travel experiences and wonderful insights into travel, people, and the ancillary benefits and challenges of being on the road.

Perhaps the most comical of our adventures was an attempt to shoot the lunar eclipse on the evening of my second day.  Both eager for the chance to snap what we hoped would be incredible photos of a rare lunar eclipse over the Beagle Channel and Ushuaia, we camped out in the Dublin Pub until 3:30AM when it closed keeping a careful eye on the night sky and watching for the moon.  We’d researched the eclipse and found a mixture of data which suggested that it would be visible from our vantage point sometime in the early morning.  Unfortunately, it was also right around the time of the summer solstice which made for the shortest nights of the year.

As 3:30 morphed into 4AM and the sun began to rise we let out a collective harrumph, warmed our hands, and admitted defeat.   As it turned out the combination of a mere 3 hours of darkness and large mountain range in the way meant that the Moon never showed its pale face.  Was it ever visible?  It’s hard to know, but as far as we could tel, day won out over night totally obscuring any chance of seeing the moon.

City Streets - Ushuaia, Argentina

The final adventure of note within the city of Ushuaia itself was culinary.  After a wonderful day spent exploring the Tierra del Fuego National Park, I re-connected with three of the people I’d met on the bus/during the hike.  Starved from a long day’s exhaustion and a tiny lunch we opted to try one of the city’s all you can eat buffets. They boasted a wealth of meat options with a large in-house grill as well as a wide variety of other seafood and delicious morsels.

Dinner on the Grill - Ushuaia, Argentina

After comparing prices and window shopping we eventually settled on an Asian influenced buffet that sported a hearty grill accompanied by a mixture of seafood and a light sushi bar.

Dinner Cooking - Ushuaia, Argentina

A vegetarian’s nightmare, the restaurant was a carnivore’s paradise. The meat was all beautifully cooked and awash in flavor.  Predominantly consisting of lamb and beef,  I set to sampling as many of the different options as possible.

Mixed Meats - Ushuaia, Argentina

Each trip back to the grill brought with it a hearty grin from the cook as I worked my way through normal steaks, grilled intestines, sausage, blood sausage and even rack of juicy lamb ribs that melted in my mouth.

Dinner - Ushuaia, Argentina

With a nod towards ‘healthy’ eating, I also balanced things with several trips to the normal buffet bar where I loaded down my plate with beets, green beans, calamari rings, sliced tongue, clams, fried octopus and baby mussels.

Stuffed and served up with a hearty side of solid conversation as the guys told me about their recent Antarctica trip, we eventually surrendered to our food comas before calling it night. To this day even thinking about the meal makes my mouth water and my feet yearn for a return.

Words of Warning

So, here’s the scoop.  If you start your trip through Southern Chile and Argentina in Ushuaia, you’ll probably love the place and enjoy the experience. It’s a decent city to start with and offers solid hostels, a beautiful national park, fun penguin excursions and medium-sized mountains all set to a pretty harbor with gorgeous sunsets. However, if you’ve already done Southern Chile, seen the glaciers and mountains in El Calafate and/or El Chalten and found penguins somewhere along your way, you’ll risk disappointment.

It’s also worth noting that a visit to Ushuaia guarantees exposure to amazing photos and stories from Antarctica which will no doubt trigger an intense desire to make the trip.  I know that for my part what started as a passing pre-trip desire has now blossomed into a post-trip obsession!

Please note that this post breaks with my typical chronological format and focuses exclusively on my time spent in the city of Ushuaia.  I spent my first complete day in Tierra del Fuego on a penguin tour and my second exploring the Tierra del Fuego national park.  Stay tuned for future posts covering both day trips in detail.

Announcing the 3rd Arizona Travel Blogger Meetup!

Grand Canyon at Sunset - Boots

The time has come for the 3rd Arizona Travel Blogger Meet (and tweet!) up. Bring your stories, pictures and self for an hour or two of travel talk, stories and bonding with other members of Arizona’s local travel community.

The goal is simple! Get to know each other while developing a more aware/active travel community in Arizona. We’ve got a ton of talent/experience in Arizona and it’s about time we started helping each other!

The meet-up will be this Saturday, October 23rd at 1:30PM. We’ll be meeting at Boulders on Broadway which is located just west of Mill Avenue off of Broadway in Tempe. All you need to bring is yourself.

If you’ll be attending, please feel free to post a quick introduction, including your twitter info/website/blog in a response to this post.

Date: Saturday, October 23rd 1:30PM-3:00PM.

Location: Boulders on Broadway which is located on the North East Corner of Broadway and Roosevelt Street in Tempe. View it on Google here. The address is 530 W Broadway Road, Tempe, AZ.

Coordination: My (Alex) phone number is 480.313.2441 if you want to confirm anything or are having issues finding the coffee shop shoot me a text/call. I won’t be able to check twitter during the event, so make sure to contact me directly.

Spread the Word: So, here’s the challenge. Let’s make sure we don’t miss anyone. Are you aware of travel tweeps, bloggers or industry personalities that might like to join? Make sure to either send them to this post, or get me their e-mail and I’ll reach out to them.

AZ COMMUNITY – On twitter? See the list I’ve assembled of AZ based travel twitter users here.

Any questions? Post them in a comment – or feel free to e-mail me directly via alex ~at~ virtualwayfarer.com.

March and August’s meetups were an absolute blast and I’m really excited/looking forward to round two! Hope to see you all there.

Announcing the 2nd Arizona Travel Blogger Meetup!

Tempe Town Lake at Sunset by Alex Berger

The time has come for the 2nd Arizona Travel Blogger Meet (and tweet!) up. Bring your stories, pictures and self for a few hours of travel talk, stories and bonding with other members of Arizona’s local travel community.

The goal is simple! Get to know each other while developing a more aware/active travel community in Arizona. We’ve got a ton of talent/experience in Arizona and it’s about time we started helping each other/getting to know each other.

Based on the poll results, I’ve chosen Saturday, August 7th at 1PM as the date/time for the meetup.  We’ll be meeting at the Xtreme Bean which is a great coffee shop in southern Tempe.  All you need to bring is yourself. If you’ll be attending, please feel free to post a quick introduction, including your twitter info/website/blog in a response to this post.

Date: Saturday, August 7th at 1:00PM-3:00PM (may go longer).

Location: Xtreme Bean which is located on the South West Corner of McClintock and Southern in Tempe, near the US 60/101. Yelp profile here.

Coordination: Use twitter hash tag #aztw. My (Alex) phone number is 480.313.2441 if you want to confirm anything or are having issues finding the coffee shop.

Spread the Word: So, here’s the challenge. Let’s make sure we don’t miss anyone. Are you aware of travel tweeps, bloggers or industry personalities that might like to join? Make sure to either send them to this post, or get me their e-mail and I’ll reach out to them.

AZ COMMUNITY – On twitter? See the list I’ve assembled of AZ based travel twitter users here.

Any questions?  Post them in a comment – or feel free to e-mail me directly via alex ~at~ virtualwayfarer.com.

March’s meetup was an absolute blast and I’m really excited/looking forward to round two! Hope to see you all there.

The Arizona Travel Tweetup – In Review!

Arizona Travel Tweetup Crew

Howdy all! Just got back from Tempe and the Xtreme Bean where I had the pleasure of kicking off the first Arizona Travel Tweetup.  I’m thrilled to say that despite busy March schedules we had a better than expected turnout – offering the opportunity to lay the ground work for a better organized Arizona travel community.

We talked twitter, wordpress, travel tips and more while exchanging adventure stories and getting acquainted with the people behind the twitter handle.  It was an absolute blast! You can find the details behind the meet-up here as well as a growing list of Arizona Travel blogging/twitter personalities.

In attendance:

@AlexBerger – Virtualwayfarer – Scottsdale, AZ

@girlfromarizona – Girl From Arizona – Tempe, AZ

@khegre – Khegre on Twitter – Phoenix, AZ

@tomtravel2 – Tom Travel 2 – Scottsdale, AZ

Thank you all so much for coming out.  I hope to set up another tweetup sometime in the next 2-3 months.  If you have any suggestions/venue ideas/requests or comments please don’t hesitate to post them here or shoot me an @Alexberger on twitter.  I’d love your feedback and participation!

Arizona Travel Blogger Meet Up!

Tempe Town Lake at Sunset by Alex Berger

Howdy friends, it has gradually come to my attention that Arizona is an often overlooked powerhouse for independent, travel minded bloggers and travel based social media personalities. Many of us cross paths online via twitter, blogs or social forums on a regular basis – but seldom put 2 and 2 together/meet face to face.

For a group that highly values social interact, meeting new friends and stories of adventure, this just doesn’t strike me as acceptable. The solution?  An Arizona Travel Blogger meet up. I’m not talking about anything fancy – just coffee or a beer, a few hours of conversation and a chance to share wisdom while putting names with faces, blogs and twitter handles.

Date: Saturday, March 6th at 11:30AM.

Location: Xtreme Bean which is located on the South West Corner of McClintock and Southern in Tempe, near the US 60/101.  Yelp profile here.

Coordination: Use twitter hash tag  #aztw. My phone number is 480.313.2441 if you want to confirm anything or are having issues finding the coffee shop.

Spread the Word: So, here’s the challenge.  Let’s make sure we don’t miss anyone.  Are you aware of travel tweeps, bloggers or industry personalities that might like to join?  Make sure to either send them to this post, or get me their e-mail and I’ll reach out to them.

Arizona Travel Bloggers:

@AlexBerger – Virtualwayfarer – Scottsdale, AZ

@DonnaLHull – MyItchyTravelFeet – Tucson, AZ

@dkeahey – Adventurous Wench – Arizona

@girlfromarizona – Girl From Arizona – Tempe, AZ

@GoSeeAz – AZ Central Travel – Phoenix, AZ

@khegre – Phoenix, AZ

@pen4hire – A Traveler’s Library – Southern Arizona

@roamingboomers – The Roaming Boomers – Scottsdale, AZ

@tomtravel2 – Tom Travel 2 – Scottsdale, AZ

@TravelWriting – Travel Writers Exchange – Arizona

@upupandagay – Up Up and A Gay – Phoenix, Arizona

-Post below to be added to the list.

I look forward to the opportunity to meet you all face to face.  If you have any additional thoughts/feedback/etc. don’t hesitate to shoot me a message or respond here.   Let’s make this happen!

-Alex